by Graham Duncan
As a born and raised white bread Scarberian, my formative encounters with offal were limited to servings of beef liver fired in the merciless crucible of my mother’s English-Canadian kitchen. Monotone grey and barely pliable, they more resembled orthotics than dinner. This formative trauma overshadowed my adult life with “variety meats” until once, in Venice, I ordered Fegato alla Veneziana (liver Venetian style). And I loved it.
Now, working in one of Canada’s best butcher shops with our culinarily engaged and culturally diverse clientele, I really have to up my offal game. So, I am returning to Fegato alla Veneziana as a gateway into organ meats.
Fegato alla Veneziana is usually made with veal liver which has a milder flavour than beef liver. Peter and Brian have been striving for years to find a reliable source of veal that conforms to our sourcing criteria but that supplier remains elusive. What to do? Option 1) Mellow the strong flavours in beef liver by soaking it in milk. Option 2) (as suggested by Peter), substitute the milder flavoured chicken or duck livers. Option 3) Embrace the full livery flavour of beef liver, as many of our customers do.
This recipe is further Sanagan-ized by the use of Giusti White Label Balsamic Vinegar from our new selection of fine imported ingredients.
In keeping with the version I enjoyed in Venice, I served the following with simple polenta.
photo by Graham Duncan
Fegato alla Veneziana
1 lb liver: calf, beef, chicken or duck. Beef liver may be soaked on the day of, or overnight, in milk. Dry the liver of excess milk before slicing.
6 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 small yellow onions, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 ½ tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp chopped parsley
To taste salt and pepper
- If using calf or beef liver, cut into 1/2” thick strips, ensuring that the liver is free of membrane and veins. Sanagan’s beef liver has the membrane removed by our butchers. If using poultry liver, leave whole.
- Slice onions into thin rounds.
- Heat 4 tbsp of olive oil over medium-low heat in a large frying pan. Here is a rare instance where a non-stick frying pan may be favourable due to liver’s propensity to scorch on a steel pan.
- Add onions and bay leaf and sweat until the onions are soft and golden brown.
- Add vinegar, stir well, and season to taste. Set onions aside.
- Return pan to the stove. Set to medium-high heat and add remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, sear the liver for one or two minutes until golden brown on both sides. You want the liver lightly seared on the outside while maintaining a touch of pink on the inside.
- When all the liver’s cooked, turn the heat down to low, return the onions to the pan, and mix with the liver. Check seasoning. Gently stir until the onions are reheated, approximately two minutes. Set aside on a platter and keep warm.
- Deglaze pan with 3 tbsp of butter, and add parsley.
- Plate the liver and onions. Drizzle parsley butter over each serving.